We’re a weird and wonderful lot us human beings.
Each of us is wired differently, giving us our own unique personalities. It can make life interesting at times, adjusting to other people’s differences, but would we really have it any other way? After all, life would be dull if we were all like robots.
The thing is, we’re compelled to write in a certain way because of our personality and, on the flip side, our audience can consume and construe our writing in different ways because each of them are wired differently too. When you look at it like that, it can all seem a little overwhelming! But the good news is, there are a couple of things you can do to make sure your business writing is more likely to appeal to all personality types (regardless of your own) so you can have more influence in the workplace.
1. Mirror, mirror on the wall
The first step is self-awareness. I know, it can be uncomfortable sometimes to really look in the mirror, but to quote Virginia Woolf: “Without self-awareness we are as babies in the cradles”.
In our corporate lives, most of us would have done a personality test at some stage: perhaps a Myers Briggs or a Caliper Profile. If you have, you might already have a good awareness of how you’re wired and how it affects your interactions with other people and your work style. But have you gone the extra step and analysed how it affects your business writing? If you haven’t, give it a try.
Maybe you’re a really driven, results-oriented person, which means you get straight to the point. While you absolutely should state the purpose of your writing upfront, some very direct people can come across as a bit demanding and too abrupt for people who aren’t wired in the same way.
On the other hand, perhaps you’re a people pleaser, which means you spend a little too much time considering other people’s feelings. That might manifest itself with too many niceties in your writing, which might bury your message a little and frustrate more direct people.
Or perhaps you’re a person who thinks very deeply before making a decision, which might mean that you assume your audience will want all the context and information upfront too. Many of them probably won’t and you’ll risk boring them with unnecessary information. It’s better to share your purpose upfront and any context later (or as an attachment) and only if it will help your audience to reach a decision or act in the way you need them to.
So, being aware of how your personality affects your writing is the first step. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback either. In fact, you should! After all, the way you think you’re perceived might be different from how you are.
2. Break your writing into the right PARTs to appeal to all personalities
Confronting the challenge of ensuring your business writing cuts through for all personality types is all about compartmentalising your writing.
In our online business writing course Business Writing for Influence, we walk you through how to break your writing into PARTs (leading with your purpose) so you can structure and approach your message in a way that will appeal to everyone. That’s how you add the secret sauce to your writing.
Another helpful thing to do – which is going to sound very basic, but it’s surprising how many people don’t do it – is to signpost your writing with headings. Yes, even emails! That way, your readers can dip in and out of the parts of your writing that hold the most interest or relevance for them.
Don’t underestimate the power of using questions as headings too. Why? Because as people read, they naturally ask questions and then you can helpfully provide the answers. It makes your communication feel more like a conversation, which is more engaging.
For example, consider these two headings: ‘Key project deliverables in March’; or ‘What do we need to achieve as a team in March?’. The first is a generic-sounding business heading. Nothing overly wrong with it, but the audience could either feel like the deliverables are something removed from them, or that it sounds more like a demand. On the other hand, the second makes it clear who the responsibility belongs to and gets the reader on the hook to know the answer. It’s also more inclusive, using the word ‘we’ making it sound less like a command.
What do you think?
Could you spend a little time considering how your personality affects your business writing and how your writing lands with others? At worst it could mean a subtle shift for the better. At best, it could mean a big one. Either outcome will make you a more effective business writer; and we’re all for that.